How Do Courts Establish Legislative Intent?

California law Legislative history services State rules

When law makers, attorneys, court staff and law researchers need to understand the meaning and intent of a law, they often look behind the written words to the legislative intent. That’s because sometimes the wording of statues can be ambiguous or obscure, or there can be questions about how they are to be interpreted. In such situations, practitioners turn to legal research tools like legislative history Nevada or California to establish the intent and purpose of laws.

What is legislative intent?
Legislative intent is used to establish the exact meaning and application for federal and state laws when the wording of the legal statutes themselves is obscure or ambiguous. Sometimes the statutes can be interpreted in two or more reasonable ways. In such cases, federal and state courts have looked to legislative history and debates to establish intent and the correct manner of their application for over a hundred years.
For example, court staff, attorneys and researchers may look at the legislative history Nevada to find the right way to construe laws on casinos or marriage.

What documents are used to establish legislative intent?
To establish legislative intent, attorneys and court personnel turn to the history surrounding the passage of a bill into law. They may examine the debates, speeches and statements of lawmakers, newspaper opinions, and the general political climate in trying to establish the intent of a law.
To obtain such documentation, they use archives and legislative intent services that have document collections going back hundreds of years to the 1700s. For both federal and state laws, the legislative history is placed in the context of the crucial political debates of the time.

Researching legislative history in Nevada
For practitioners seeking legislative intent for Nevada statutes, the legislative history Nevada can be found in documents related to the codified Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). These include the background and events that led to the enactment of the statute, as well as committee reports, floor debates and hearings.
The legislative history is found in the various versions of the bills as they were introduced, amended and reprinted; committee hearing minutes; remarks on the Senate and Assembly floor; and other materials like newspaper reports and articles.
Practitioners and researchers can refer to the following sources for legislative history Nevada:

  • Nevada Revised Statutes or NRS
  • Statutes of Nevada
  • Journal of the Senate
  • Journal of the Assembly
  • Nevada Senate Final Histories
  • Nevada Assembly Final Histories
  • Committee Minutes
  • The Nevada Legislature Research Library, available on the internet

Researching legislative intent can help courts, attorneys and researchers to correctly construe the law when the wording of statutes is ambiguous and open to different interpretations. Research archives, whether maintained by the state or privately owned, have the relevant documents going back hundreds of years.

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